Welcome back to a very changed and still changing dining destination. We’ve had restaurants open in the past few months, and while some are thriving, others are just surviving. Unfortunately, we’ve lost some restaurants and other local favorites have reinvented themselves, adding outdoor dining, taking reservations and expanding menus to make it through these very difficult times. Nearly all offer take-out and deliver or have partnered with delivery services like DoorDash, Grubhub and Uber Eats. And if dining safely is most important to you, we strongly recommend you call your preferred restaurant before you go as places vary wildly in mask mandates and the spacing of tables. Try to request a more isolated booth or one with dividers. For the most up-to-date information on a restaurant’s hours and policies, visit their Facebook page.
After a six-month COVID-19 shutdown, Zeke’s Uptown Bar & Grill on West Dearborn Street, finally reopened in September and has resumed service for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Wednesday through Monday, with expanded outdoor seating, indoor dining improvement and most of its original staff. The new menu features old favorites and new items, including “immunity-boosting COVID-19 Cocktails.” 115 W. Dearborn St., www.zekesuptown.com, 941-460-9353
Ken & Barb’s Grove City Kitchen opened at the former Blue Lagoon on May 28, transforming the sprawling outdated dining room to a contemporary comfortable dining space, with a full bar and updated patio seating. The scratch kitchen offers a varied menu of salads, sandwiches, pastas and a revolving dinner menu. 2000 Oyster Creek Drive, Englewood. www.kenandbarbs.com. 941-460-8999.
In October, Culture Coffee opened in the former Irving’s Coffee on West Dearborn Street. The shop also sells desserts, ice cream, sandwiches and small plates, offers live music and showcases local art. You will also find vegan desserts here.
405 W. Dearborn Street
Rumours opened in August as a wine shop and now is a full-fledged wine bar offering more than 20 wines by the glass and flights, craft beers, ciders and specialty drinks, along with a limited menu of small plates and tapas. Owner Dana Kuhn has been in the wine business since 2008 and the shop also sells oil, vinegar and chocolates. 1807 Englewood Road, Lemon Bay Plaza, www.rumourswine.com, 941-473-WINE.
Stephanie Bouchard already had quite a following for her quiches, pies and tarts from area farmers markets and in June, she opened her first shop. Sassy Tarts offers a variety of baked goods, quiches, sweet and savory pies and of course, tarts. Right now there is no indoor seating, but there are a few outdoor tables and you can still find her at the farmer’s market. 5855 Placida Road in Rotonda Plaza, www.sassytarts.com, 941-214-5218
You can also now find pastries at Ephesus Mediterranian Grill, which now opens at 7 am with coffee and specialty coffees, baklava, doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and more, and still offers Turkish and Middle Easter cuisine for lunch and dinner.
8300 Wiltshire Drive, Gulf Cove,
Libbee’s Sports Bar and Grill at Lemon Bay Plaza is undergoing a major renovation and is scheduled to reopen for outdoor dining on the new patio in January 2021, with indoor dining to follow. Stay updated on Libbee’s Facebook page.
The Placida Grill closed suddenly and permanently this month. The popular chef-driven restaurant had struggled since the onset of the COVID crisis and had only recently reopened for indoor dining.
The Englewood Taco Bell in Palm Plaza, finally reopened on November 16, after a major fire caused it to close down in November 2019.
A Short Drive Away
El Jobean has all of a sudden become a dining hotspot with two new and very popular restaurants and a reopening. Opening in September, The Twisted Fork on the property of Bert King’s Black Widow Harley-Davidson, 2224 El Jobean Road offers a varied food and drink menu almost as eclectic as the decor that fills the spacious dining room. There is also outdoor seating, a bar, food trucks and entertainment. The restaurant does not take reservations.
Before welcoming guests to its renovated indoor dining in October, Big Bamboo Asian Fusion at 4104 El Jobean Road had made quite an impact in the Englewood area thanks to its very popular delivery service. There should be plenty of room for social distancing at a location that has housed the Ragin’ Cajun and numerous other eateries. The lengthy menu includes Chinese and Thai entrees and sushi. Outdoor dining is also available.
The Bean Depot Cafe and Museum at 4370 Garden Road, also in El Jobean, reopened in October for outdoor entertainment, burgers, sandwiches and bar food after being closed for months due to the COVID crisis.
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